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Going cookieless: How to activate first-party data

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Franck Smulter



The world of digital sales is about to change with the end of third-party cookies. The change forces marketers to rethink how they can reach the right audience digitally. While going cookieless might be a significant challenge, there remain vast opportunities for those who can collect, process and leverage first-party data creatively and efficiently. In our "Going cookieless" series, we explore each in depth.

In our last few blog posts, we’ve explored different ways to collect and process first-party data, as access to third-party data is limited. Your journey in the cookieless future of digital sales doesn’t end there, however. Now that you’ve collected and processed first-party data, it’s crucial to activate it well. In this post, we’ll explore some the most powerful possibilities for marketers to utilise the data available to them.


Find opportunities in data co-ops, SDA’s, and contextual advertising

Data partnerships, Seller Defined Audiences and contextual advertising are some of the tactics marketers can rely on as third-party data is no longer available for purchase. They prove to be efficient ways to target the desired audiences even as tactics such as retargeting is increasingly difficult in digital marketing.

Develop strong data co-ops

Data partnerships are a way to gain a better understanding of your customers, as data is shared between partners. Successful data partnerships start with a clear understanding of what your partners want to achieve through the partnership and why your brands – as well as your data – complement one another. 

Before entering any data co-ops, make sure you have similar standards. When it comes to privacy and compliance, you can never play it too safe. Each partner needs to source data ethically and ensure its quality to maintain customer trust across the co-op. Be sure you and your partners agree on how to update, cleanse, and reconcile your data.

Test and implement Seller Defined Audiences (SDA)

Seller Defined Audiences (SDA) were announced on Feb 24 by IAB Tech Lab. The SDA specification allows publishers, Data Management Platforms and data providers to scale first-party data responsibly and reliably without data leakage or reliance on deprecated IDs and/or new, untested technologies. 

The objective of SDAs is to democratise the concept of audience cohorts for the open ecosystem, provide a conceptual foundation and technical scaffolding to do so, and support ongoing innovation, growth, and open-market competition on top of a shared, flexible framework. 

Be present in the right context for your customers 

Contextual advertising simply means that you’ll seek ways to be present where your customers are. As the third-party cookies crumble and the current way of doing advertising is going away, major publishers are developing an offering focused on using their customers’ own data to target in their ecosystem.

Major platforms will require different technical solutions to allow data sharing with publishers. These are called “data clean rooms”. A typical simplified data architecture would look like this: 


Personalise the web experience and messaging

Going full circle back to personalisation, that we talked about in regards to collecting data, it’s crucial to focus on creating the best possible user experience. Relevant, GDPR-compliant and carefully stored and processed data on your customers will allow you to do just that. 

The data you gather need to be leveraged to delight your customers. Surprise your customers positively, and they’ll say things like this to their friends and family: 

  • “The first thing I see when I come to Company X is my favourite product!”
  • “I can easily reorder and have all the information and support I need at hand.”
  • “Company X gives me tailored offers that match my preferences.”

Success has always been measured by the value you offer your customers. Consequently, personalised marketing messaging focused on providing value is paramount. Ditch mass sendings and put your efforts into creating journeys and loyalty programs that are tailored to user preferences. Utilise marketing automation to send relevant and interesting messages and offers based on customer channel preference, whether that be email, SMS, or push notifications.

To conclude, the digital sales landscape is inevitably going to change as third-party data is no longer available. Yet, at Columbia Road, we see this as an opportunity for those who are ready to adapt and embrace change. The future seems bright for the companies who can navigate the change and collect, process and activate namely first-party data well.

Read previous parts of the series:

The digital sales and marketing landscape is set to face a major challenge with the disappearance of third-party cookies. At Columbia Road, we see this as an opportunity for those who are ready to adapt and embrace change.

As a premium partner in digital commerce, we specialise in building seamless digital solutions and running concrete growth activities that help businesses sell better. Our cross-functional teams work hands-on and take ownership of your business goals. Data is in our DNA, and we always deliver results – even in the cookieless future of digital sales.


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